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A Tale of Disputed Research Results Ends Badly

The sad and sobering tale of how allegedly fabricated results of research led by a Johns Hopkins University lab led to the suicide of a scientist in Taiwan,and the dismissal of the man who blew the whistle, are the focus of a feature in yesterday's Washington Post.

The story is the tale of Daniel Yuan, formerly a genetics researcher in Jeff Boeke's lab at Hopkins. For years, Yuan suggested that data being generated in the lab's studies of gene interactions in yeast were suspicious.

Yuan was dismissed from Hopkins in 2011, and last summer one of the members of the research team, Yu-yi Lin, was found dead in his new lab in Taiwan of an apparent suicide.

Lin was an author of a paper published in Nature last year that now, according to the Washington Post, may soon be corrected by the journal. At age 38, Lin left behind a wife and three daughters.

The article suggests that Yuan was fired because of his concerns that the data that was used to write the Nature paper and others did not support the conclusions reported. Yuan also reached out to the editors at Nature, warning the journal of the weakness of the data behind the paper, saying that its results were overstated and that some of the analyses outlined in the paper may not have been conducted at all.

After Lin was found dead, Yuan received an e-mail "essentially blaming him for driving Lin to suicide," the Post reports.

The Post feature also suggests that the saga of Yuan and Lin are part of a larger trend of falsified research and unfounded research conclusions being published because of the immense pressure caused by an increasing number of scientists who are racing to win grants in an environment of diminishing funding.